The 10 Best Barbell Exercise Ideas for Building Muscle at Home

best barbell exercise

A high-quality barbell rests at the heart of any home gym. It’s one of the most affordable yet versatile and effective pieces of equipment for building muscle. In fact, some individuals build their entire workout regime using only a barbell. In this article, we’ll take a look at the ten best barbell exercise ideas for building strength and muscle at home. So, let’s take a look.

How to do a Barbell Bent Over Row

A barbell bent over row is a fundamental barbell exercise for any good back workout. It will target your upper back lats and is also great for your hips. A final benefit is that barbell bent over rows help to improve your postural strength.

Performing a barbell bent over row is pretty simple too. Load your barbell using a squat rack, with the rack’s handles slightly below your hips or the floor if you don’t have access to one. With your feet just over shoulder-width apart, bend at your hips to pick up the barbell. With your hips bent and your back straight, lift the barbell until it nearly touches your hips. Bring it back down to starting height to complete a rep.

Barbell bent over rows work the following muscles:

  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius
  • Rhomboids
  • Posterior delts

How to do a Barbell Bicep Curl

A barbell bicep curl is a great barbell exercise to add to any upper body, pull, or barbell arm workout. It comes with several benefits too. For instance, barbell bicep curls allow you to use more weight, leading to greater muscle growth over time. They’re also excellent at increasing grip strength.

To perform a barbell bicep curl:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pick up your barbell with an underhand grip, and hold it at your hips, so your arms are straight and facing outward.
  3. Slowly curl the barbell up towards your chest, only using your arms in the movement.
  4. Pause for one second at the top, and lower back down to complete a rep.

Drop the weight if you feel you’re using momentum or other muscles to complete a barbell bicep curl rep. A bicep curl is most effective when the bicep is completely isolated, so proper form is far more critical than the weight you use with this exercise. 

A barbell bicep curl will work the following muscles:

  • Bicep Brachii
  • Bicep Brachialis 

How to do a Barbell Squats/Barbell Front Squats

Barbell squats and barbell front squats are two essential barbell exercises for building your leg muscles. They also help to promote growth hormones in your body, helping your overall muscle gains. Finally, a well-executed barbell squat will be excellent for your spine health.

To perform a barbell squat, you’ll need a squat rack. Stand in front of the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Load the barbell onto your back wherever it feels comfortable, and step back until you’re clear of your rack. Take a deep breath, bend at your knees and keep your back straight. Lower yourself to a comfortable point and explode back up, exhaling as you go.

Barbell front squats provide a few different benefits. First, they help reduce spinal compression and work your quads slightly more than a conventional squat. 

To perform a front squat, load the barbell onto your front, and stabilize the barbell with your hands. Then, perform a squat movement as described above.

 Barbell squats and barbell front squats work the following muscles:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back
bent over row with barbell

How to do a Barbell Hip Thrust

Barbell hip thrusts are an excellent exercise for beginners, as they’re easy to perform and don’t require perfect form to be effective. They’re also fantastic for building muscle in your glutes.

To perform a hip thrust with a barbell:

  1. Sit with your back elevated on a bench.
  2. Roll a barbell onto your hips and drive up with your hips, making sure that your body and hips form a straight line.
  3. Lower back down to complete a rep.

What do barbell hip thrusts work?

A hip thrust with barbell will work the following muscles:

  • Glutes
  • Lower back
  • Hamstrings

How to do a Barbell Shrug

A barbell shrug is a great barbell exercise to work your traps. They’ll also help to improve posture and shoulder mobility.

To perform a barbell shrug:

  1. Stand straight, with your feet at shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip and lift your shoulders to your ears.
  3. Hold for a second before lowering back down.

A barbell shrug works the following muscles:

  • Traps

How to do Barbell Skull Crushers

Barbell Skull Crushers are a fantastic tricep workout with barbell or dumbbells for adding mass to the back of your arm. In my opinion, Skull Crushers are one of the best barbell exercises for triceps around and are best performed with an EZ bar, especially if you suffer from wrist discomfort.

To perform barbell skull crushers:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with a barbell.
  2. Lower the barbell towards your face until it almost touches your forehead.
  3. Push back up to complete a rep.

Barbell skull crushers work the following muscles:

  • Triceps

How to do a Barbell Bench Press

The bench press is one of the best barbell exercises for chest muscle development. Moreover, it’s an essential exercise in most people’s barbell chest workouts.

To perform the king of all barbell workouts for chest, you’ll need a bench with a rack:

  1. Load your barbell and lie on the bench underneath the barbell.
  2. Grip the bar and lift it off the rack and lower it down to your chest.
  3. With your core tight and your feet planted, explode back up and straighten your arms. 

If you don’t have a bench, this exercise can be done lying flat on the floor, provided your weight plate’s diameter is wide enough to move under the bar freely.

A barbell bench press will work the following muscles:

  • Pecs
  • Triceps

How to do a Barbell Deadlift

When performed correctly, a barbell deadlift will increase your overall strength dramatically. Of course, you can also perform a deadlift with dumbbells, but it’s generally accepted that doing it with a barbell is the most effective. 

Deadlifts can help to reduce lower back pain and are a great all-around hamstring and glute workout.

To perform a barbell deadlift:

  1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your barbell on the floor.
  2. Grip the barbell, bending at your knees and keeping your back straight.
  3. Drive up with your legs until you reach the starting position to complete a rep.
  4. Ensure you maintain an arched back throughout the movement.

Performing a barbell deadlift will work the following muscles:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Lats
  • Abs
  • Glutes
  • Lower back

How to do Shoulder Press with Barbell Exercises

Overhead barbell presses are one of the best shoulder exercises with a barbell around that will help pack on some serious shoulder girth. In my opinion, they’re also one of the most enjoyable push exercises out there.

To perform optimal shoulder press with barbell technique:

  1. Start by resting the barbell on your collar bone.
  2. Bend your knees and push the barbell, straightening your arms.
  3. Lower the barbell back down to complete a rep.

Overhead barbell presses work the following muscles:

  • Pecs
  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Traps

How to do a Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlift

Stiff legged barbell deadlifts are a great addition to any leg day workout. They’re much better at targeting the hamstrings than conventional deadlifts.

To perform a stiff legged barbell deadlift:

  1. Grip a barbell at thigh height.
  2. Keeping your shoulders down, hinge at your hips until the barbell passes your knees.
  3. Pull back up to the starting position to complete a rep.

Stiff legged barbell deadlifts work the following muscles:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Lower back


Is a Barbell Better than Dumbbells?

This question is tough to answer because both barbells and dumbbells have strengths and weaknesses.
For instance, barbells are generally better for progressive overload, allowing you to lift heavier weights over time. They’re also considerably more versatile than dumbbells and will allow you to train a broader range of muscles. 

From barbell squats to barbell shrugs, you can train virtually every muscle with just one piece of equipment.
On the other hand, dumbbells are much more efficient to work with, as you won’t have to load and unload plates constantly. Furthermore, they’re better suited to isolation work, which will help with any muscle imbalance.
Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and which equipment you believe is better for your goals.

How much Does a Barbell Weigh?

A standard Olympic barbell weighs 20KG or 45Lbs. Make sure to factor this in before you add any more weight.

What are the Different Types of Barbells available?

There are quite a few different barbells used in gyms nowadays. These are the most common ones, with the typical exercise is it used for:

  • Standard Olympic Barbell: The most common type of barbell. Perfect for barbell chest workouts, squats, deadlifts, and barbell back workouts. 
  • Trap Bar: This barbell is hexagonal and requires you to stand inside the bar itself. These bars are great for performing barbell deadlifts.
  • Safety Squat Bar: This barbell features padding and two handles at the center of the bar. It’s a perfect choice for barbell squats.
  • EZ Bar: This barbell is curved at the edges of the handles, making it perfect for barbell bicep curls and Skull Crushers.
  • Log Bar: Specifically designed and built for strongmen and powerlifters, this is a log bar that allows for big weight loads with maximum comfort. Generally only found at powerlifting gyms.

Are Barbell Collars Worth it?

Barbell collars clip onto the end of your barbell and prevent weights from slipping off during movements.

Barbell collars are certainly worth your time, effort, and money. They’re pretty essential for any home gym, particularly if you work out alone. The last thing you want is half the weight to fall off mid-squat when no one is there to spot you!

You can only get away with not using barbell collars if you’re performing a barbell bench press alone. If you have no spotter or spotter bars, you can potentially slide the weights off the bar on one side to get yourself out of danger. I don’t recommend using this technique and feel that spotter bars/arms on a good squat or power rack are the best and safest option.

Summing Up

So, there you have it – our top 10 barbell exercises for home gyms. We hope this article has helped you create a well-rounded workout routine to help you achieve your fitness goals.

Always consult a doctor before starting any new exercise program, and be sure to use proper form when performing these or any other exercises.

barbell row bent over

About the Author

James is a freelance writer with a passion for fitness. He has written for multiple businesses, and takes great pride in producing high-quality articles. When he’s not pounding away at the keyboard James is sweating it out at the gym, boxing, watching tennis, and playing video games

Table of Contents